Why are Latinos affected by diabetes more than non-Latino whites? Is eating more vegetables a good option to help people prevent and manage diabetes? These are the questions that Sansum Diabetes Research Institute is currently studying in Santa Barbara, California.

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Diabetes is much more common in Latino communities than in white communities. In fact, in the U.S., 18% of Latinos of Mexican heritage have diabetes, compared to only 10% of non-Latino whites. When people are first diagnosed, they are often confused and unsure of what to do next. As a result, there are many Latino adults with diabetes who do not have the knowledge or resources to treat the disease, prevent bad complications, and prevent the disease in their family members. An organization in Santa Barbara called Sansum Diabetes Research Institute aims to change that.

Sansum Diabetes Research Institute is currently studying why Latinos have diabetes at a higher rate than whites. In fact, they have created a specific program called “Mil Familias” (www.MilFamilias.com) that is recruiting 1,000 Latino families from the California Central Coast with at least one family member with diabetes. Trusted bilingual Latino community health workers trained in diabetes education and research work with participants to measure factors impacting diabetes that are related to genetics, biology, behavior, psychology, and environment. The goal is to use the data they collect on these 1,000 families to develop effective interventions to reduce type 2 diabetes and its complications in this population in the future.

Sansum Diabetes Research Institute is also studying whether eating a healthy diet is a good way to prevent and treat diabetes through a new program called “Farming for Life.” This research program provides “prescriptions” for fresh vegetables to low-income local residents who have or are at risk of diabetes. Sansum has created “Fresh Food Pharmacies,” where participants pick up their weekly prescriptions of local, organic vegetables. Participant health is assessed before and after this 10-week program to see how adding fresh vegetables impacts their health. So far, the results are exciting, as many of the participants saw major improvements in blood sugar level, weight loss, and better control over their diabetes. A healthy diet can reduce the risk factors for those with type 2 diabetes. It’s also much less expensive than most diabetes medication with fewer side effects. Another benefit is that vegetables have been proven to reduce obesity, some cancer, and other diseases.

Individuals and families living in the Central Coast of California affected by type 2 diabetes, regardless of documentation and insurance status, are encouraged to contact Sansum about participating in these programs by calling 805-699-1519 to speak with a bilingual staff member at Sansum Diabetes Research Institute.

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Photo courtesy of Mil Familias © 2018